A Night of Gees At Urbanologi with Mad Giant
Yesterday, Mark Sham called me up and asked if I’d like to do a beer tasting. I’ve known Mark to ask rhetorical questions before but this one took the cake.
I’d never been to Urbanologi before and even though Mad Giant was not in the top tier of my craft beer preferences, I was keen for the experience. If for nothing else, Mark tends to bring cool people together so I was up for the gees.
Gees turned out to be the coolest part of the evening. When I think of beer and gees, I think to the older ballies who love craft beer and know so much about it because of their desires to simply make it and make it well. The new generation of brewers tend to be hipsters who brew beer to look cool and impress.
Eben Uys, partner at Mad Giant, who has been in the game for about a decade now, is not one such hipster…he’s a game-changer. One walk through his brewery and you can tell this dude has passion for his craft for its own sake.
We began the evening by waiting for others to join. Fortunately this provided time to socialize over my first beer. I opted for the Pilsner because it was the closest thing to a lager which is always my starting point.
Labelled the, “Guzzler”, the brew proved to be crispy and fruity. It certainly was not as rich and fruity as some of its competitors which was great because it was a long night and that meant I could drink more than one. I’ve taken a lot of flack for maintaining that I do not consider pilsners as lagers but rather as a separate category and was relieved to find that Eben somewhat agreed with me during the tour.
As we began the tour, Eben explained the brewing process to us with the sort of enthusiasm you’d get from a grade 3 kid proudly explaining how a plane flies after their daddy was just promoted to captain. It was noteworthy that they had clearly invested a lot of cash into this business. Moreover, it was clear that they invested a lot of time into their research. When my friend Steve asked how they test the alcohol content, Eben responded with an answer surrounded in tech…tech that they didn’t trust at first so indeed they cross checked results the manual way.
We proceeded through the office as Eben continued explaining the brewing process and quality control methods. Steve’s keen eye caught a container labelled, “crazy shit/take 2”. Inevitably, a query was thrown Eben’s way which was suitably dodged with a smile and continued explaining the varieties of the ingredients used when making beer. We even got to taste some.
Through the cold store and bottling departments, we learned the mechanics of sheer numbers and pricing of brewing. It transpires that scale makes some processes of producing commercial beer up to 70% cheaper to brew than its craft counterpart. Distribution is also a significant barrier to entry and when you can only bottle single digit percentages per hour than than the big boys, you’re asking for a struggle.
Be that as it may, Mad Giant is one of the most sophisticated breweries I’ve been in with a frontman who looks like he’s never drunk a beer in his life. When I questioned him on how he remains so thin, he admitted that strict adherence to the beer diet is important in the industry if one wants to maintain one’s looks.
When we got back to our table we were served the tasters and some coffee beans…which were not to be eaten but, as we were only later told, rather just to cleanse the smelling sensors between rounds…oops. Coffee beans taste good though.
It was about this time that we indulged in the “Electric Light” Weiss…I had a boss once who loved weiss and we always disagreed on it. This weiss, however wasn’t hard and went down without a fight. It was actually pleasurably refreshing…a beer that can be sipped on with no judgement from it nor your friends.
Moving on, we tasted the Killer Hop (Pale Ale) and True Grit (Amber Ale). Pale Ales are a killer for me naturally and I dislike them so reviewing them is tough. I find them to be sharp and annoyingly imposing on the palate. In order to review a pale ale then for me, I determine how much I didn’t not like it. In this instance I can confirm that I didn’t totally dislike the pale ale. The Amber Ale, however comes in a close second to the Pilsner…what I would consider a fishing beer that you could take on your boat to the Vaal and spend the day with it on the water. It’s also an easy drink so you may want to pack more than one.
All told, the beers were good and as a brewery, would probably provide the most consistently enjoyable variety pack. I lament their lack of a stout so if you’re reading this Eben…
But the night didn’t end there and we were handed over to the Urbanologi kitchen. I was hungry so the disappointment was strong in me when I was told that all their dishes are tapas. What was a man to do? I ordered a few dishes from the dumplings to the chips to the steak strips. The names were far more exotic than I care to remember but the food was delicious…despite the dumplings being presented in a questionable manner.
I should mention that the winners for the evening were the sauces that came with the food. I was left grateful for the tapas style of the menu because it allowed me to try a variety of dishes. Turns out that the way to eat at Urbanologi.
In sum, a tour of Mad Giant followed by a meal at Urbanologi was much better way of spending a Tuesday evening than half price movies. If you get the shot to go out to 1 Fox, do yourself the favour.